Posts by hbuisson

Les ponts de mai

Posted by on May 3, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Les ponts de mai

The French have a reputation for being very good at what they do. Wine, cheese, political scandals…they really seemed to have cornered the market. One thing that this country of bon vivants seems especially wonderful at is enjoying time off. Notorious for its generous vacation time, France is a country that appreciates holidays. While the rest of us spend the month of May hoping for summer to finally show its face, the French are sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying three public holidays (and the time off that comes with them). Not only do they get the holiday, but they also add a pont – a bridge day, defined as being a day between holidays, which translates into a four-day weekend. Hence the special weather report for the 3 May ponts pictured above. That being said, it is worth noting that if you are planning a trip that coincides with these days, most services will be operating on a holiday schedule, if at all. Be sure to check ahead to ensure that you avoid any surprises. Vive les vacances! Fête du Travail (May Day/Labour Day) On May 1st, 1561, the reigning king of France received a sprig of lily of the valley, something that evidently pleased him so much that he decided to make it a tradition. The next year, he offered the same flowers to all of the women in his court and it caught on across the nation. These days on May 1st, sprigs of lily of the valley are as ubiquitous as cafés and for one day only, they are sold tax-free. They are also used to commemorate the Haymarket Affair, the violent end to what was supposed to have been peaceful rally in support of workers asking for an eight-hour workday, which evolved into Labour Day. Whether they are used to decorate the windows of a local pâtisserie,  presented to a loved one,  or commemorating Labour Day, they are a symbol of springtime that adds even more brightness to the start of a beautiful month. Fête de la Victoire (Victory in Europe Day/Armistice Day) On May 8th, 1945, the Allies of World War II accepted the surrender of Germany’s armed forces, which meant that the war had finally ended. Eight years later, the day was officially declared a national holiday in France. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to encourage reconciliation between France and Germany, President Charles de Gaulle decided to take away the day’s holiday status. The cancellation remained in effect for several decades until the restoration of the holiday in 1981 by Francois Mitterand. Luckily for the French, the Fête de la Victoire seems to be here to stay which means that only a week after celebrating the Fête du Travail, workers and students are able to enjoy another day of leisure. Ascension (Ascension Day) Whether or not you consider yourself religious, the 40th day after Easter is marked on French calendars as a holiday to celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. While this ecumenical feast is celebrated worldwide, not all countries designate it a day off. France, as you may have guessed, does. For Christians, the day marks an important historical time and is celebrated accordingly. For others, it is a time to enjoy the late May weather and celebrate the rapidly approaching summer...

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Le fromage

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Le fromage

They say there are over 324 different cheeses in France – the number differs according to the source. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of French cheese and it is really only over the past 50 years or so, when travel to France became more accessible to us common folk that we have had the opportunity to discover all those marvellous local specialties. Cheese is so important to the French that many of them have the AOC designation. AOC stands for Appellation d’origine contrôlée, a  French certification that imposes a regionally specific quality on products from different areas, The concept of AOC , better known as a designation for wines, really started with cheese back in the 15th century when Roquefort’s region of origin was first regulated, and became official in 1925 when it received the first official AOC certification. The French were concerned that traditional food products might be threatened by modern developments (think pasteurisation). According to Kathe Lison in her excellent book The Whole Fromage, “… the early Roquefort producers clearly had interests other than tradition in mind back in the Middle Ages when they first asked rulers to make it illegal for competitors to use their name.” AOC or no AOC, learning about French cheeses is all about discovering new regions and wonderful new taste sensations. It adds a whole new level of enjoyment to travel.  You too can taste some of the products of the over 700 cheese-producing farmers in Provence by joining us next September for a magical week in the Luberon!...

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La galette des rois

Posted by on Jan 5, 2014 in News | 0 comments

La galette des rois

January 6 is the Epiphany, and in France, it is traditionally celebrated with a galette des rois, a scrumptious flaky almond cake with a bean or a tiny figurine (depending on where you celebrate) baked into the cake. In Provence, a santon – a small terracotta figurine depicting various figures of village life – is used. The person who finds the figurine in his or her slice of cake becomes king or queen for the day. I have read that in the French court during one of the Louis’ reign, whoever got the bean or figurine was allowed, as king or queen for the evening, to abolish all rules during his or her (albeit short) reign and a night of frivolity and sometimes questionable antics ensued. The French President, because of certain etiquette rules, is not allowed to have this privilege, so each January, a galette without a bean or figurine is served at the Elysée!...

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8 Reasons to travel with O! France small groups

Posted by on Nov 5, 2013 in News | 0 comments

8 Reasons to travel with O! France small groups

  1.  Enjoy the experience – without the hassles 2.  Discover places not accessible to large groups 3.  Stay in your very own castle – all week 4.  Explore our quiet village – no tour buses allowed 5.  Make new friends – they chose the tour cause they liked it too 6.  Benefit from expert guidance without ever “following the guide” 7.  Slow down – only one destination each day 8.  Wine and dine – gourmet dinners and fine wines  ...

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Facebook – Love it or Leave it?

Posted by on Aug 20, 2013 in News | 0 comments

Facebook – Love it or Leave it?

O! France now has a Facebook page. Past and future guests were clamouring for photos taken while we lead our great groups through two of the most beautiful places in France: the Dordogne and Provence, and Facebook seems like the ideal venue to post these for all to enjoy. However, reaction has been interesting and quite polarised. It must be said that there is a negative side to Facebook and that it has been misused with in some cases, tragic results. Some have told me they cannot condone this and will not support it. Others want to relive great memories and revisit the places they so enjoyed, albeit vicariously, and future guests want a taste of what is to come. I like to think that as in many other aspects of life, the positive outweighs the negative. Facebook is, I believe, a very effective way to share our O! France experiences with many many people all over the world, and showcasing these regions is our raison d’être. It’s what we do with so much enthusiasm and great pleasure year after year. Until I find a better way of reaching out to Francophiles everywhere, I chose to love it. For...

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